The Red Hand Part 34
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Thirty-Four Illusions and Truth
We make our way down the metal shaft. The glow from my ax our only light as we descend. I think this was once a passage way in whatever kind of craft this once was. But it got turned on it’s side and over time got buried under the dirt. Tenth got her way, I went first. Using what appears to be air vents on the side of the passage as hand holds.
After a short descent we reach the passage’s end, dropping down onto the wall of another one branching off of it. Above us came the clang of metal. That must be from the early morning sun warming the metal, right? Or have they found the hatch? Right now, they might be getting ready to come storming down here. My injured shoulder throbbing from the climb down. If there’s a fight, I’m not sure if I’ll be any help.
Tenth and I share a look. “Come on, let’s find this sucker.” I say, holding my ax up like a torch.
Our boots echo off the metal under us. Making it harder to hear anybody else here with us. Could Maebh have installed some kind of traps down here? To safeguard the hand? I wish we had Hallie here to ask. We pass what look like bodies, shapes wrapped in rags. Skeletal. Whatever they are we don’t stop to investigate.
We reach another turn in the passage. This one, shorter than the other leading to a shaft. Heading further down into darkness, I take the lead again at Tenth’s instance. Thanks Sister.
The glow from my ax starts to dim. All this exercise is sapping my energy. When we reach the bottom of the shaft, my forehead is dripping with sweat. My ax is barely flickering. The darkness thickening around us.
But, as that light starts to fade, another stronger light grows around us. Pushing back the dark. Eradicating it in a flood of white light. A light so bright I have to shield my eyes as it engulfs us. I blink rapidly as bright splotches dance over my eyes, until finally I can see again.
I step forward. The metal floor under my feet was given way to a lush green meadow. It stretches out before us in every direction. Rolling hills off in the distance. A breeze gently blows through the tall grass. Making it sways back and forth.
How can this be? Are we on the same world anymore?
“Who are you?” A gentle, elegant voice asks. The voice coming from all around us.
Tenth and I look around, but there’s nobody here with us.
“Who are you? Who do you serve?” It asks.
Tenth steps forward. “I am Tenth Reveka of the Audar. I serve the Reint.”
Tenth looks at me and I shrug.
She tries again. “I am Tenth Reveka. I’m a warrior of the Audar. I serve our leader the Reint.”
“Who are you? Who do you serve?” It asks again, ignoring Tenth.
I decide to give it a try. “I’m Serena Van Allen. I kind of serve myself I guess.”
Silence again. Then…
“What do you want?” It asks.
I think about it for a minute before speaking. “I want to go home. But, I guess right now I just want the Red Hand.”
“To what end?” It asks me.
“To keep it from being used by the bad guys.” I answer, growing impatient with the questioning. “Look. Just show yourself, whoever the hell you are. We don’t have time for twenty questions.”
A bright blue light appeared in the sky, descending to the meadow. It hovered a few feet in front of us slowly taking a humanoid form. A familiar face forms out of the swirling energy cloud. Maebh!
Tenth raises her sword. “What sort of trick is this?” She asks.
“Maebh. What are you…How are you here?” I stammer.
“I am not the one you think I am. I’ve only taken a form that is known to both you and I.”
I notice this “version” of Maebh has two hands. One normal and one that looks like the Red Hand as described by her.
“You’re the Red Hand?” I didn’t think it was alive. Not in that way. I imagined it as a kind of parasite.
Tenth looks at Fake Maebh. “This. This is the Red Hand?”
“I didn’t think you were…alive.” I say, trying not to offend it. I could feel the power coming from it, crackling through the air around us. Making the hairs on my arms stand up.
“I was not. Am not. Not in the way your mind processes. I have grown through my time with organic beings. They have left their residue on me.”
The meadow around us shifts, rippling with energy.
It backs away from us. It’s expression changing to a look of fear.
“The master arrives.” It says, the face shimmering. The features becoming that of a man. The same man who’s picture I saw in the house. The house I should have never entered. Hagen. He’s here. We’re doomed.
Tenth walks toward it. “We have to go. Come with us.” She reaches out towards it. “Now.” She says sternly.
“No!” It says, pushing Tenth back with a wave of energy. “I wish to be left alone. I want no part in of your kind’s affairs.”
The landscape around us starts to fluctuate, as tremors run through it.
Desperate, I try pleading with it. “If you don’t come with us, he’ll take you. Force you to do horrible things. Please!” Even as I say the words, I can tell there’s no changing its decision.
“Leave me!” The hand orders, it’s voice booming through the landscape.
I hold my head. Tenth doing the same as the words reverberate through our skulls. Tears sting my eyes. I touch my ears expecting to find my brains, now mush, leaking out. In the very least perhaps blood. But to my surprise there’s nothing.
The meadow fractures, exploding into a star field. Planets fly past us as I feel us being pushed through space by a strong force. We pass a large sun. I swear I can feel it’s heat as we pass. More intense than I’ve felt before.
Faster and faster we move through the galaxy. Passing through solar system after solar system. Stars and planets become a dizzying blur. A kaleidoscope of color. Forcing me to my knees as nausea grips me.
A hand reaches through the stars, shattering them. They fall away like a broken stained glass window. Breaking apart on the floor around us. A metal floor. We’re back inside the ship.
I look up through my burning, blurry eyes to see the image that’s haunted my dreams for some time now. Mr. White. Hagen. In is white robes and expressionless face mask. Across from him, the Red Hand still in the form of Hagen from the picture.
He reaches out with a gloved hand for the false image of himself. “Come. Your tricks won’t work on me.”
The Red Hand pushes back against him with a wave of energy. “I’ve learned much since we were last joined.”
The blast sends Hagen backwards into a metal bulkhead. He slides down the wall in a tangled mess of robes. Sadly, he doesn’t stay down for long. Pulling himself up, He crouches there on one knee. Raising his hand once more, the walls around us start to creak and moan. Sounding like some kind of giant in its death throes.
Tenth grabs me, pulling me out of the way just in time as part of the ceiling over me collapses. Before the debris can hit the floor, they stop in midair. Floating there for a second before shooting forward. Colliding with the false Hagen. The mass of wreckage pins the fake Hagen to the bulkhead. The real Hagen gets to his feet. Striding with purpose towards the trapped Red Hand.
Tenth and I huddle together, powerless. Watching as he stops there. In front of his trapped prey. Pulling open the front of his robes, exposing a scarred, raw chest. Looking for all the world like the flesh had been peeled off. Looking akin to bloody meat. Like he’d been skinned.
“No!” The Red Hand protests, it’s image fluctuating.
He grabs it, holding its glowing face. The sockets emanating blue light.
“Join with me child.” Hagen says, his voice soothing. “Fear not. Together we bring enlightenment.”
Tendrils of flesh emerge from his exposed chest. Drilling into the image of fake the Hagen. The Red Hand screams in pain. A scream that seems to echo through every part of my being. Assaulting my very essence.
I feel myself start to black out.
I’m not sure if I do or not. Suddenly everything comes back into focus. The blackness has faded. Hagen stands before us. The false one is gone. There on his exposed, bloody chest is the Red Hand. Joined to him. Fused to him. Held in place by the tendrils. It’s Cyclops eye blinks at us.
Hagen looks down at the two of us. “I am whole again.”
With that, he snaps his fingers and we disappear.
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